When World War 1 broke out in the summer of 1914 the consensus view was that it would ‘all be over’ by Christmas – not rage on until November 1918. Similarly, we all hoped that the Covid19 crisis would be behind us by the end of this year, which is now highly unlikely.
It might be some time before an effective vaccine is generally available, and constant vigilance will be required to keep the virus under control in the meantime. Therefore, it is probably more realistic to assume that the virus will be ‘with us’ to a greater or lessor extent, for say the next 2-4 years.
This makes it more likely that permanent (rather than temporary) changes to the way we work and live will result from the crisis. We are already seeing some trends that will be irreversible, such as much higher levels of working from home and online shopping for goods and services – with profound implications for the high street and commercial office markets.
Right now it is difficult to predict how sectors which have been devastated by the crisis* will survive and adapt, but adapt they will in time. The economic fall – out will be painful initially, but with lots of opportunity in the wake of the crisis.
*Examples are international travel related, hospitality, non food retail, music and entertainment, events in general, suppliers of non core services.
We can hope for societal ‘silver linings’ such as an emerging awareness that there is no ‘them’ and ‘us’, only us, particularly as our focus inevitably returns to the existential threat posed by the climate crisis. It is also heartening to see an increased emphasis on community, ‘people over profit’, and human resilience and creativity in the face of adversity.
So ‘Where to Now … for You ?
This question is unavoidable in the times in which we live, and one which each of us consciously or unconsciously has been asking ourselves in recent months. Faced with so much uncertainty there is a real danger that we will lose focus and begin to drift into dead end activities, when what we should be doing is standing back and taking time out to develop a new (and inspiring for us) personal vision of success, informed by changed circumstances.
The starting point for this work is reflecting on your personal ‘why’ ( life purpose) to answer questions around what you want to achieve in life, your ideal work, and what you are passionate about. This can take a while to work through and will probably involve a number of iterations, and is best done with the help of a coach or a close friend who knows you well.
Next you will need to articulate the other elements of your vision with the same level of ambition, typically:
- Income expectations
- Work/life balance
- Physical and mental well being
- Relationships and family
- Humanitarian interests
- Community involvement
- Industry leadership
- Retirement plan
Each element should be in alignment with the others and be as specific as possible. When completed you should write it up concisely (maximum of one page !) and come back to it from time to time to check progress in getting to your desired end state, or modify, if necessary.
What is really important is that you don’t undersell yourself or lack ambition. If you set the bar too low you will deny yourself the opportunity of experiencing the sense of fulfilment from doing what will bring you most personal satisfaction and success. So ignore current constraints to achieving your vision for what is after all a future end state. You need to consciously choose a timeframe for the achievement of your vision, say 3, 5 or 10 years. You will know which end date is appropriate.
For some the achievement of the vision will involve a completely new career and/or a move from employment to self employment, or visa versa. For others it will be a renewed commitment to an existing career, possibly with a narrower, or wider focus. If you conclude that there is no future for you in your current career, you may consider developing a long standing dormant passion or pastime into a paying career. If you are retired it may involve a return to paid, or voluntary work. An important test of your completed vision is whether it is aligned with your core values, so articulate your values as part of the process.
Finally, you should develop an action plan, with transitional steps, to take you from today to your desired end state, and include actions to cut out any current areas of focus/activities which are getting in the way of you achieving your vision. Even without this plan the fact that you have clarity as to your long term goals will be a source of motivation and direction for you in uncertain times.